Monthly Archive for January 2011
Introducing a species into a place where it is not native is never a good idea. More times than not, the introduced species creates serious environmental problems. Often times, the problems are not things that could have easily been predicted. Native species often suffer after introductions. Introduced species may use native species as prey, they might out compete native species, or they may degrade some aspect of the habitat that ultimately hurts native species.
One introduction that threatens to pose serious problems in Chile is that of the African Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis). This aquatic species is native to Africa but has been introduced to areas around the world. Because these frogs do so well in aquaria, they have been used for human pregnancy testing, in genetics, developmental, and environmental toxicology labs, and they have been a staple in the pet trade. African Clawed Frog are voracious predators, eating any small aquatic animal that it can fit into their mouth. These frogs can produce potent skin toxins and can poison larger native species that try to eat them. Importantly, African Clawed Frogs carry but are not damaged by the disease, amphibian chytrid fungus. In carrying the disease on their skin, they can spread the disease to native species as they are moved around by humans. African Clawed Frogs are often kept as pets in aquariums. The problem is that when the pet owner changes the water, that water is infected with amphibian chytrid fungus. The water winds up in a local wetland and exposes native amphibians to the disease. Amphibian chytrid fungus has devastated amphibian communities around the globe. Moving African Clawed Frogs around, in the pet trade or otherwise, is risky and could seriously damage native amphibian populations.